Resurgent Wisconsin Badgers Host Michigan State
By: Michael Robinson
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan State Spartans have seen their fortunes turn around recently, but with far different results. They meet Saturday afternoon in Madison in a Big Ten slugfest.
The Don Best Pro Odds has Wisconsin as 6-6½ point favorites with a low total of 41½. ABC will have the national telecast from crazy Camp Randall Stadium at 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Wisconsin (6-2 straight up, 4-4 against the spread) was feeling down after blowing a 27-10 third quarter lead at Nebraska on September 29, losing 30-27. The Badgers got manhandled in the running game with a 259-56 margin.
Coach Bret Bielema got some criticism after that game, but has rallied the troops the last three weeks in home wins over Illinois (31-14) and Minnesota (38-13), plus at Purdue (38-14). The Badgers got back to running the football with an average rushing margin of 326-110. Montee Ball and James White have both really come on.
Wisconsin is now 4-0 ATS in its last four games after starting 0-4 ATS. The ‘over’ is 5-0 in its last five, scoring 34.2 PPG after 16.3 in the first three.
Quarterback Joel Stave gets a lot of credit for the turnaround in addition to the running game. The redshirt freshman began the year on the bench with Danny O’Brien the starter after transferring from Maryland. Stave has averaged only 20.2 attempts the last five weeks, but his 9.5 yards per completion has been impressive.
The Badgers have snuck back into the Coaches Poll top-25 with the winning streak. Check out the new Don Best Linemakers Poll when it is released today as they should move up from last week’s tied-for-25th ranking.
Michigan State (4-4 SU, 2-6 ATS) had high expectations heading into this season and even moved up to No. 10 in the AP and Coaches Poll after winning its first two games (one over top-25 Boise State).
Coach Mark Dantonio has seen everything spiral down since, starting with a 20-3 home loss to Notre Dame on September 15. The record in Big Ten play is just 1-3 SU and ATS after a 12-10 loss at rival Michigan last week. It is the Wolverines who have the inside track in the Legends Division.
The Spartans offense has been mostly to blame for their struggles with their 19.6 PPG ranking 11th in the conference and 107th nationally. It has also propelled the ‘under’ to a 6-1-1 mark this year.
Junior running back Le’Veon Bell was a ‘man among boys’ the first four games (152.5 YPG, 5.21 per carry), but has been contained the last four (93.5 YPG, 3.43 per carry). Part of the problem is a banged up offensive line, but a lot is just opposing defenses really concentrating on stopping him.
Quarterback Andrew Maxwell needs to step up and take the pressure off Bell. However, the junior has not been able to fill Kirk Cousins’ shoes, completing just 55.2 percent of his passes and with a 111.8 rating (ninth in the Big Ten).
This has been one of the most exciting matchups in college football over the last two years. Michigan State has covered the last three and would have won them all if not for blowing the inaugural Big Ten title game last year (42-39 loss as 9½-point underdogs).
The ‘over’ is 4-0 in the last four meetings and 9-1 in the last 10.